/ Money, Technology

Your view: celebrating our Costly Calls campaign win

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Together we’ve been celebrating our Costly Calls win, with companies being banned from using expensive numbers for their customer helplines. Here’s a round-up of your comments on the announcement.

Your comments here on Which? Conversation led to the launch of our Costly Calls campaign, and we’ve recently enjoyed big wins.

The government announced that travel firms will be included in new rules banning companies from using pricey 084 and 087 numbers for their customer lines. Meirion comments on the win:

‘It is about time this has come about. I have lost count of the times that I have used these numbers only to be left on hold, transferred to the wrong people, put back on hold only to be greeted by someone with a heavy accent, being hard of hearing this is tedious in the extreme and no one can ring you back.’

People power works

And now it’s over to Edward:

‘Congratulations to Which? for harnessing people power. Governments have ignored common sense proposals for far too long, and need to be brought to task. Let’s now clear up a few other nonsensical practices. Well done Which? Good to have someone to help ordinary people live in a better country. Thank you.’

Thanks very much Edward, but we couldn’t have done it without all of you! Graham shares the importance of people power:

‘When we come together and vote together, we are strong. Remember that everyone. They work for us, and by coming together like this, we can have whatever we want, we just need to get everyone to join in. We are the 99%, don’t ever forget that.’

Jim celebrates the win:

‘These companies and indeed Government departments have been using these numbers as a nice little earner for too long, good to see them going!’

Talking of Government departments, Carol asks what’s happening with their numbers:

‘What about contacting the Government offices on 0845 numbers? People on benefits and low incomes are screwed financially with these calls and often kept waiting for ages… does this mean they will be banned too?’

Well Carol, the Government has confirmed that you shouldn’t have to pay high charges to call public services, and the Cabinet Office will be publishing guidance soon.

Jan joins the celebrations:

‘Brilliant news that customer service lines will no longer be able to use expensive numbers. The last thing anyone needs is to be worried about paying extra for a call when they need help, especially when you can spend so long on the call. Also to have an 0845 number for people on benefits is ludicrous and the last thing they need.’

Financial firms must ban costly calls

But what about the banks? Most of you are calling for them to be banned from using costly calls too, including Brian:

‘I agree that banks must also be forced to comply – they are the ones who put us all in the present mess through their greed. If they are a bit short tell them to take it out of their bonuses.’

Lonewolf57 shares how he gets around using expensive numbers:

‘Banks and insurers must be included, they are some of the worst offenders of gouging every penny possible from their customers. I telephoned my bank the other day on an 0800 number I got from http://www.saynoto0870.com/, a great site by the way. I got through to them, and was told ‘I’m sorry, can you call back on the 0845 number because I don’t know how to transfer you from this line’! So I said ‘No! You can get them to phone me’, and they did. So one up to me.’

Nice one Lonewolf57 – that gets you our Comment of the Week! Finally, Simon14 sums up the mood on financial firms:

‘Great news. Well done, but bankers and financial services not included? They are the one’s who brought us to our knees and pay the fattest dividends and bonuses! They MUST be included.’

The good news is that the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has committed to considering whether it could introduce similar measures for calling your bank or insurer. We expect the FCA to introduce new rules so that there are no exceptions, but make sure you keep the pressure up!

gerry, northampton. says:
15 December 2013

good news at last, well done you… aynd all the people who spoke out. 0800 june 2015 still too far away . one again great news. gerry toal.

It is great news that Which succeeded in having passenger transport services included within the scope of the UK’s enactment of Article 21 of Directive 2011/83/EU on Consumer Rights.

The UK has enacted Article 21 under Regulation 41 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Payments) Regulations 2013, which contains a fantastic additional clause which is not in Article 21:

“If in those circumstances a consumer who contacts a trader in relation to a contract is bound to pay more than the basic rate, the contract is to be treated as providing for the trader to pay to the consumer any amount by which the charge paid by the consumer for the call is more than the basic rate.”

This means that, for calls made after 13th June 2014, you can claim back any unlawful surcharge from the offending trader, if necessary via the Small Claims track of the County Court. If you have a fixed-price package of unlimited calls to basic rate (01/02/03) numbers, this means that you can claim back from the trader the full cost of the surcharged call. This is a lot better than the previous draft of the legislation.

A better link directly to the relevant part of the new legislation is now:


Well done Which? for helping us to get the government to listen. Governments can go further by requiring strict application processes before issuing these numbers. A rigorous application process should require justification from applicants before these numbers are issued. The alternative is completely remove these numbers altogether and all calls should be at the same rate. Why should they have different rates?

0844 numbers can be useful for small businesses whose customers are large businesses, and this will continue to be allowed after 13th June 2014. These numbers allow intelligent call routing, which would otherwise be costly for the small business, to be funded by callers, who as large businesses, couldn’t care less about the cost.

The current problem is the reverse of this scenario where price-sensitive consumers are unreasonably funding the call routing of large businesses, often so that consumers’ calls can be routed to call centres in third world countries with an inadequate level of English.

I knew that many felt strongly about costly phone calls but was amazed by the number of supportive comments.

What battle are we going to win next? 🙂

Perhaps we could find an effective way of enforcing consumer rights since trading standards seem so ineffective.

I agree, Malcolm. If we can identify consumer issues promptly then perhaps the problem can be ‘nipped in the bud’.

Relevant to Trading Standards and to the costly calls issue, I have just seen this on the Citizens Advice website: “Trading Standards services differ across the country. If you want to report something to them, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06.”

I think we need a change of number.

I think the continuing erosion of Trading Standards services across the country is just as big an issue and would probably justify a Converstion topic in its own right. It might not have the immediate financial impact for consumers of some of the other campaigns but it worries me a little bit that the more being achieved by Which? through its subscribers and supporters, and through the CABx, the less inclination there is to keep TS Services up to the mark. Consumers can’t afford to let them wither and die.

John – I believe there is more need than ever for Trading Standards, thanks to the boom in online sales. As far as I know, TS has never acted regarding cases I have reported to them and one product that I reported as potentially unsafe, early this year, is still on sale.

From what I have read, including posts on Which? Conversation, TS simply does not have the resources to do what we might of expect of them and on one occasion I was told by TS that it would only take action against a company if they had other complaints.

I would very much appreciate a Conversation about Trading Standards. Perhaps that would help Which? to carry out an investigation into the effectiveness of TS.

Trading Standards seems (I may be wrong) a very wishy washy affair.
– You report a problem to the Citizens Advice Bureau who may pass it on to local Trading Standards who may take it further. Why CAB? I thought they were busy with other things. Why an 0845 number?
– Product recalls – the Trading Standards Institute has a page on its website for traders to post recalls. Can’t see one for enforced recalls – perhaps they don’t enforce?
– Trading Standards does not have to prosecute a trader even when it is clear that a criminal offence has been committed and the trader is likely to be convicted.
– Trading Standards services differ across the country.
None of this suggests an active and coordinated policing of suspect products and trading. Importantly, if your complaint is taken to your local TS, I see no sign that it will be shared nationally. If this is so, how are sufficient complaints likely to be accumulated to indicate a problem with matters that are other than local? Product problems are likely to fall into this national category, as are major traders.

I would like to ask just how well our current system really deals with product and trader problems – there seems a general view that it is unapproachable and ineffective.Then, how should it be set up to be effective. Surely a national organisation is needed?

I would like to see a system where I can submit a perceived problem that goes into a national database so multiple complaints will accumulate and at some point trigger an investigation. I would like to see this database searchable so reported problems are visible.

Perhaps one person who could start this off with some facts would be Jo Swinson?

There is warning about the cost of using the 0845 number and an alternative number (0208 and another for Welsh).

Last time I made an enquiry I tried the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline, which was very helpful and recorded my concerns in detail. I know this because when Trading Standards called me, they already had the information. TS took no action other than give my number to a market research company asking questions about my experience of dealing with TS. 🙁

Phone number for CAB other than 084 not immediately visible when I looked on a number of pages.

The page I found the numbers on is: http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/getadvice.htm

It is not obvious how to get to this information. 🙁

Searching the site for ‘alternative number’ does come up with a different page with a suitable link.

It is not good enough.

TS are useless toothless watchdogs. My local office never answer their phones, I don’t know what they get paid for!

Great news. Well done Which. Hopefully you will continue your campaign so it embraces all. As well as the financial institutions what really galls me are GP’s and hospitals are still using 0844 numbers. Supposedly stopped by the health authority but nobody is enforcing it and it is very expensive and frustrating waiting endlessly in queues and going through menu systems. When is it going to be enforced and GP’s and hospitals fined for not using ordinary numbers, they have had long enough for their contracts to end.

The trouble with fining public institutions is where does the money come from? You and me. the only way to discipline them is to take action against the individuals who do not perform their roles competently or correctly – dismissal or loss of position for example. Then they might think harder about decisions they make.

I totally agree if the people making the decision is penalised then more decision makers will make decisions responsibly instead of hiding behind the organisations they work for.

The use by the NHS of 0844 is simply outrageous. I do appreciate that imposing a fine to a public sector service is not always that easy but at least let’s name and shame the GP surgeries and hospitals which impose such high cost numbers by making use of the various complaint websites now operating by the NHS and other quangos.

I assume the contribution from Robinson17, emailed from the conversation, has been blocked from publication? I have seen these sorts of loan offers before – has anyone any knowledge of them?

All well & good but what about the Doctors Surgeries who are still using premium numbers (mine uses an 0844 number) why haven’t they been included

Ian01 says:
21 December 2013

BIS regulates private sector businesses, not the financial or public sectors.

In England and Wales, the GMS contract was amended in April 2010 to ban GP surgeries from starting new phone service contracts using 084 numbers. Existing users were given one year, until April 2011, to stop using their 084 number.

PCTs failed to enforce this ban. Indeed for several years, a number of practices claimed that 084 numbers had not been banned.

NHS England is now on the case. In November 2013, they wrote to every non-compliant practice and asked them to “explain their plan for swiftly moving way from the use of an 084 number”.

The letter also busts several myths that practices try to use as excuses for not complying with the terms of their GMS Contract.

A copy of the NHS England letter can be found online. Search Google for [084 NHS GPs]. You should print it out and ask your surgery why they haven’t yet complied

Thanks for the info Ian01, I shall definitely do that!

DavidB says:
17 January 2014

Which? is celebrating a victory but nothing seems to have changed. I am surrounded by 0844 numbers, John Lewis, Sky etc. What is supposed to happen and when? Which businesses/services does it apply to? Are sales/customer services/technical support lines all included? Please update us on this issue. Thanks.

Is there a simple way of establishing which Telecoms Provider a Commercial Company is using for Premium Rate Numbers such as 0844 etc.?

Peter M says:
1 February 2014

Magenta Systems “codelook” can report which firm provided the number (which I understand is what you’re after).

Magenta Systems can be found at magsys.co.uk

Angie Scott says:
12 February 2014

We won. We won. The floodline number is now 0345 !!!!!!!!! not 0845.
Congrats to all who have joined the Costly Calls campaign. Though of course for me the ‘real’ victory will be when the banks and building societies go back to using ordinary landlines. OR does anyone know of one of these who doesn’t use an 0845 number.
I personally no longer do business with any company using an 0845 number. Imagine if everyone who signed your petition did the same.
More power to your elbow
Angie Scott

david says:
24 April 2014

Want cheap calls? website saynoto0870.com has saved me a lot.